Stoptober – a new, exciting 28-day challenge to stop smoking – is a quit-smoking campaign run by UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and supported by the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. According to several health experts, if smokers are able to quit for 28 days straight, they are five times more likely to give up the habit for good. However, persuading a smoker to give it up is no easy task. Those who use tobacco cigarettes are in fact, addicted to two things – the nicotine, and the act of smoking itself. So in spite of the various nicotine replacement therapies out there, people fail to quit smoking because they are simply used to puffing several times a day. While many smokers are admirably able to quit cold-turkey, there are so many more that are unable to do so. Many health workers agree that what might work better for smokers is harm-reduction. Giving them safer options to smoke that drastically reduce and even eliminate their intake of deadly toxins and carcinogens definitely seems like a good idea as a stop-gap measure. This is where electronic cigarettes come into the picture.
Electronic cigarettes are completely free from tobacco. They contain liquid nicotine, which is vaporized and inhaled in a glycol vapor base. Since tobacco is absent from these devices, they are also free from all the toxins and carcinogens that have devastating effects on the human system. Instead, e-cigarettes provide a safer and healthier means for smokers to get their nicotine fix, in their efforts to quit smoking. They also aren’t deprived of their habit of puffing on a cig, as e-cigarettes simulate the effect perfectly. Several studies conducted recently have proved that e-smoking is indeed a safer option to tobacco smoking. The devices can be refilled, are cost-effective and taste better than regular cigarettes. They come in a variety of flavors ranging from mint to strawberry, keeping one’s breath minty fresh instead of reeking of tobacco. Gourmet flavors like Tiramisu aren’t uncommon, either.
‘Tobacco harm reduction’ is essentially a term used to describe a less-moralistic approach to helping people get off harmful, addictive substances. Instead of preaching abstinence, which many find difficult to deal with, harm-reduction aims to minimize the dangers present to individuals who are addicted to controlled substances. According to recent studies, about 67% of all smokers want to quit and 75% have tried. But the fact that the tobacco industry is still thriving is an indication that not many have been successful. According to Professor Gerry Stimson, director of Knowledge-Action-Change and former director of the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), the solution for dealing with tobacco is “staring us in the face.” “Those who are unable or unwilling to quit need to shift to safer nicotine products. Public health needs to catch up,” he said in a recent lecture.
Given the fact that e-cigarette technology falls bang into the definition of a harm-reduction tool, its popularity is on a steady rise. According to the figures released by Action on Smoking and Tobacco (ASH), only 3% of smokers used e-cigarettes in 2010. In just two years, the figure has more than doubled to 7%. This is estimated to be about 650,000 to 700,000 in Great Britain alone. The smokers who at least tried an e-cigarette were at 9% in 2010, but have risen to 22% in 2012. But that’s not all. In 2011, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published that nearly 31% of those who tried e-cigarettes reported that they quit smoking all together within 6 months of use. This is far better than nicotine gums and patches, which have had a success rate of below 20%.
E-cigarettes have been in the news time and again with negative research and reports suggesting that they contain toxins and are harmful for human use. However, many of these researches have been successfully disproved for lack of sufficient evidence backing their claims. The fact does remain that while nicotine is an addictive substance in itself, it is not as harmful as tobacco is. Several medical health professionals even suggest that the effects of nicotine are comparable to that of caffeine – addictive, yet not deadly.